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Exclusive Interview: Honk Magazine Chats with Maya J

Maya Jenkins, simply known as Maya J, has taken the entertainment industry by storm. Whether she’s on the stage, on the screen, or in the studio, Maya J is a force to be reckoned with, and fans have eagerly been waiting for her next single to drop. Well, that wait is officially over. Today Maya releases “Home.
We had the opportunity to chat with American singer-songwriter Maya J
Interview Replies: 

1. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

What would our lives be without music and movies (entertainment)? That question has floated around in my head with me for years. I feel that the arts community and the entertainment business does so much for people that they don’t even realize. Entertainment creates the fantasies that humans only dream of living in. Making music, acting, and storytelling is an important career to have, just like we need doctors and lawyers. I’ve always felt that if I can give the world melodies and lyrics and portray amazing stories via film and television, my career would be very fulfilling.  

2. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

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Of course, my new single “Home”, which will be available June 4th, and my music video for my latest single “Trouble” also coming out this June are the latest things happening! Those 2 things are going to make June a super sparkly month. I completed both projects in the midst of making team changes, planning more new songs, and going through external stressors caused by all the dark things happening in our world right now. I am beyond ready for “Home” to be officially released into the universe, and you can catch my “Trouble” music video on my YouTube channel and on VEVO very soon. 

3.  Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

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Well, I always say everyone I’ve met in my business dealings thus far has been somewhat “interesting”; the difference is whether they are negatively interesting or positively interesting, haha. This is an industry full of temperamental people who feel emotions deeply…so every time I jump into something new, I feel like there is another wild story to tell. My mom & sister have heard them all. I’ll totally continue to write meaningful songs about this crazy ride and all the stories I have will come through in more melodies, whether I am singing them or other artists are singing them. 

4. Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

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This question reflects the true fact that there is a high prospect of burnout and failure in this entertainment field. Even SUCCESS can bring burnout with it, along with frustration and other demons; so honestly, I salute those who have maintained longevity, reached a high level of achievement, and STILL maintain their sanity. There is a chance that you invest your time, money, sweat, and tears in this; you can literally risk it all, and lose everything. If you actually THINK about that prospect, you probably wouldn’t begin to do it. You really have to commit to being in this for the long haul. Sometimes people set time limits for themselves or have time limits set on them by people who are helping to finance them with the very basics. Your mindset has to understand that this is a commitment and know that there are going to be ups and downs. When you understand that, you can be more in control of the intensity of your emotions during the down swings. 

5. Can you share with our readers any self-care routines, practices, or treatments that you do to help your body, mind, or heart to thrive? 

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I’d say anything that you enjoy or that makes you feel good are great self-care routine. You should make sure your private spaces (like your home or office) all have good feng shui so that your body is the most energized that it can be. Vibes are very important; I really believe in that. Enjoying each of your moments, smelling the roses, and eating a new froyo flavor once a month really work wonders for the soul. 🙂

6. You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

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feel as though people have to dig deep within themselves to figure out if they want this for the right reasons. I’m not saying I have all of the answers, but I respect art and artists so much. This is a pretty tough journey for most, and it takes a lot of hard work to get any type of success. I’d say think about whether you love the craft and art form first, & that would be my main advice before anyone embarking on this career path. 

7. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. 

Don’t trust the B in apartment 23. LOL. Kidding, but not. 

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Here are 5 things I really wish someone told me when I first started. Actually, they did, but I just didn’t listen or truly understand it yet haha. 

 

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  • 1) Stay focused but release tension often, because the road to success is long.
  • 2) It would take longer to drive to Burbank from the west side than it takes to get to Miami on a plane because Los Angeles traffic is unfathomable.
  • 3) That I shouldn’t take people personally, because how people treat you is a reflection of their own inner feelings & struggles.
  • 4) This kind of goes with number 3, but it can stand on its own: This business is filled with ego and you should never internalize things that are said to you. Always be you!!
  • 5) Make sure you get everything in writing — EVERY. LITTLE. THING.

 

Overall, listen when I tell you. I’ve said this before — It doesn’t snow in LA, but there are a lot of flakes. None of us are perfect, but just try to be the change you want to see. 

8. Can you please give us your favorite  “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

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The following life lesson quote from the fabulously eloquent Maya Angelou:  “When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time”. It is definitely relevant in my life because I tend to let my guard down around people who I know have done bad things. I’m not saying don’t practice forgiveness, but you really have to trust your instincts. If a person lies in business, they are usually a snake and they’ve already proven that … so your thoughts are valid, and walking away is valid. Don’t let a wolf in sheep’s clothing smile in your face and cause you to go back into a situation that you know isn’t good for you. You don’t have to be angry or irate to put your foot down. 

9. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

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Oh absolutely, you get nowhere by yourself. I’m grateful for everything good that has happened! I wouldn’t have been able to get most of this done without my mom’s emotional and moral support, and her driving me around to auditions and meetings from day 1. She believed in me more than I believed in myself at times, and for that I am forever grateful. There are also a couple of people that I call my angels, that have answered my calls. That’s all I have to say about that. 🙂 #Thankful

10. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂 

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I would start a unification movement. You know, in our society today, we are so divided and have so many issues ranging from racial divides, to wealth vs poor, all the way to self identity. I don’t know exactly how I would execute the idea of creating unity, but I would want to start by finding out how we can have more of a shared culture as Americans, and a way to focus on our similarities more than our differences. People always tell me I’m painfully idealistic by actually thinking it’s possible to have a world full of compassion, kindness, love and unity, all while being different spiritually, mentally and physically. I still believe it would work if we all tried. Start by spreading some extra sparkly smiles around, and see where it goes after that. 

11. We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

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That’s wonderful. Firstly, I’d really like to sit down with some prolific songwriters. Specifically, I have to name Lionel Richie and Dianne Warren as people that stick out to me. My parents first got me on the Lionel train that I’m still on… and ever since I was younger, I have learned about and looked at great songwriters like Dianne Warren. My goodness what a genius! So many of my favorite songs she wrote – which are also classic songs. Lionel Richie is a true musician who believes in songs striking heartstrings. He expressed once that he understands the difference between songs and records, and it seems like he has an ever-evolving conversation in an effort to combine the two. I think part of that comes from him playing his music with real instruments and the fact that started off with a band. Our modern-day record qualities can still be there WITH a touching beautiful melody that we can sing when the production is turned off.  

So yeah, I’d love to collaborate with them both. I have songs that I haven’t finished yet, and I’d love to bounce ideas off. I’d be interested to hear their perspectives on song structure and development. I just want to soak up their essence and talent.

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Even more recently popular gems like Julia Michaels who are from my own generation, I would completely love to talk to her too! So many times I hear a cool melody on a newly discovered song I really like, Julia happens to be on the credits list. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, and I personally think we could — and should — write a beautiful song together. 

The actor in me really wants to have a talk with Ava DuVernay. The reason? She is such a superb storyteller and really seems to connect with actors on a level that is so incredibly special. She brings powerful stories to the forefront and is able to capsulize the complexity of interpersonal relationships within her projects; I think we would see eye-to-eye on a lot of things and have so much to discuss. I honestly can’t wait to work with her one day!

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All in all, I love people who discuss things in-depth and seriously understand the things that artists, actors, and songwriters go through daily. I am always looking to create projects, connect with writers, producers, and more creatives. I don’t ever want anyone to feel nervous or hesitant about approaching me, because I welcome art, passion, and people in general with open arms. 

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12. How can our readers follow you online?

Please go follow my instagram! @mayajenkinsforever, and my twitter @everythingmayaj. Subscribe to my Youtube channel: Maya J Music . Head to my profile (Maya J) on Spotify and make sure you guys all follow me there too so you don’t miss any new music or playlist updates. Lastly, you can check my official website (www.thisismayajenkins.com) and sign up for exclusives, tv/film, new music, and merch updates. I really hope I see you there! Stay Sparkly forever and ever. XO

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Natalie is a journalism major with a focus on Entertainment and Music who aspires to become a Content Creator For Honk Magazine. Eventually, she wants to be the Publisher or Editor-in-Chief of a major Publishing House. She loves helping people find their voice and passion for writing and journalism, and she can always be found with coffee in hand, editing another article.

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Artist Spotlight

Angie and Chris from Eleyet McConnell Talks “Surrender,” Morphing and New Single

Angie McConnell’s powerful voice and heartfelt songwriting, influenced by icons such as Beth Hart, Janis Joplin, and Merle Haggard, blend seamlessly with Chris McConnell’s soulful musical arrangements, reminiscent of classic 70s rock and blues. Together, as Eleyet McConnell, they create a sound that is both nostalgic and refreshingly modern.

Since meeting in 2013 and beginning their collaborative songwriting journey, Angie and Chris have developed a musical synergy that is palpable both in the studio and on stage. Their songs reflect personal experiences and universal truths, delivered with an honesty that strikes a chord with audiences.

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On the eve of their new single release, “Don’t Tell Me Why” from their critically acclaimed debut album, “Crazy World,” the couple took time out to answer some questions in this EXCLUSIVE interview…

“Surrender” is such a personal and emotionally charged track. Can you share with us the inspiration behind the song and what it means to you both personally?

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Angie: Lyrically is a reflection over a very difficult period of time for me.  Life was throwing curveballs at me, and I had to reconcile a lot of really hard things all at once.  “Surrender” was my way of telling the story of my journey, and those moments when things felt quite insurmountable to me.  It was my opportunity to share my belief in a higher power and faith that there is something bigger than all of us in control. 

As a married duo, how does your relationship and shared experiences influence your songwriting process?

Chris: Almost every song we’ve written is about our life before and after marriage.  For us it’s a magical thing to share the ability to express life through song lyrics and melodies.  Writing is almost like the framework that makes us who we are both as individuals and as husband and wife.  Angie never wrote songs until she and I met, and I was just waiting for things to click for her and see what could happen.  For a couple years I’d noodle on the bass during rehearsals to see if she’d catch on and it took a bit.  One day it was like she heard it for the first time and things just took off from there. 

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Angie, you mentioned that “Surrender” is your “give it to God” song. Could you elaborate on how your faith journey has influenced your music, especially in this song?

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I grew up in the church and spent several days every week in service, bible study, or the fun activities our church would have on Saturdays or during softball leagues and things like that.  My mom was always playing hymns on the piano and she and my dad would sing those old songs playing guitar.  It was definitely part of my foundation.  Like many people I drifted away from that life as I got older and while I never forgot those times, I certainly wasn’t active like I was when I was younger.  

As I explained, the lyrics to “Surrender” talk about the lowest period of time in my life.  So many difficult things happening all at once and I was struggling to deal with it all in a healthy way.  Literally, one day I was on my knees just sobbing because I was so overwhelmed and I actually said out loud, “I can’t do this please help me”.  I felt a peace that I hadn’t felt in a very long time and not because it had left me.  It was because I wasn’t open to receiving it and didn’t even realize it. 

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All my life I remember hearing people say, “lay it down..give it to God”….. but it didn’t really resonate.  This time it felt so natural and so easy.  I let it all go and gave my worry, my fear, my sadness, my guilt….all of it to God.  It was the best thing I could have done for myself.

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“Gettin’ By” was a success, hitting the top 30 on the UK iTunes Rock songs chart. How did you feel about the reception to your debut single, and did it impact your approach to creating new music?

Chris:  Believe it or not, we never sit down with the intention of writing a song in any certain fashion.  Even with a song like “Getting By” and all its success, we still never went back to write the next tune with the intent to stay in that vein and try and match the success.   Maybe we should think about that in the future, but our writing just doesn’t flow like that.  

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Your debut album, “Crazy World,” seems to touch on themes of overcoming struggles and finding hope. How do you hope listeners connect with the overall message of the album?

Angie:  The songs on this album all come from our life together.  Chris and I have had our share of struggles, and we still found a way to make it all work and it’s been just amazing.  Our lives are crazy and fun and full and challenging, and the world at large feels even more crazy at times. This album shares stories of different struggles like paying bills, falling in love, sadness, disappointment and how unfair life is at times – all the things that each of us deals with on the daily.  We found each other and have found a way to get through all the hard times together.  Anything is possible.  Hopefully, someone else can listen to our story and feel encouraged to keep chasing their dream.

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“Don’t Tell Me Why” is your upcoming single, set to release soon. Can you give us a glimpse into the inspiration behind this track and what listeners can expect?

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Chris:  This song came together in a matter of minutes.  We were writing with our friend, Darla, in her basement one evening.  I came up with those bass intro notes and just sang the line “Don’t tell me why”.  Darla and I just seemed to play the same thing without talking much about it and Angie literally just took off with the lyrics to the song. It was like she couldn’t write them down fast enough.  Apparently, she was upset with me about something (chuckling).  I might be responsible for a few of those songs when she was upset.  More stories for later LOL.

Your music has been described as genre-defying. How do you approach blending different musical influences to create your unique sound?

Angie: Our music is simply a culmination of all the great stuff we grew up listening to as kids. Both of us have grown up with several influences and we love it all.  I think it’s why our original work feels like it could live in a lot of places and it’s really difficult to say we live in this or that bucket.   Both of us grew up on gospel and country music from our parents, Chris loved the 70s music and so did I.  We both love rock and roll and blues and oddly enough, neither of us had a love fest with the arena stuff from the 80s.  Sure, we listened and yes, we were in the throes of the vibe like everyone else at the time, but I wouldn’t say that era influenced us much as songwriters.  

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Both of you have dynamic stage presence. How do you translate the intimacy and emotion of your songs into live performances?

Chris: It’s very easy for me to get lost in the songs.  We’ve written about some very personal experiences, from difficult arguments in moments where we didn’t think we’d make it all work to the very happiest times together and everything in between. I feel like we both can mentally go right back to those moments when we perform these songs, and the audience can feel that.  Angie can grab a crowd.  Some of my favorite nights are in small venues when the size of the place just makes it more intimate.  There have been times where everyone is so in tune with everything she says, especially when she tells the story behind the songs.  It’s magical.

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Angie, you mentioned experiencing some difficult times a few years back. How has music been a form of healing or catharsis for you during those times?

Angie: It saved me. Music gave me an outlet to talk about and confront things that were far too difficult to utter out loud to anyone.  When I began writing it was like I finally had this vehicle that let me – actually forced me, to look deep into myself and reconcile a lot of things that I had buried or compartmentalized. I had a lot of things to reconcile and through it all I changed dramatically.  Chris will say, “You Morphed!”, and he isn’t wrong.  

I took a hard look at myself and realized a lot of habits that I had developed where relationships are concerned, and it dawned on me that I had become someone else entirely.  I didn’t hate who I had become per se, but I wasn’t happy nor was I really healthy.  I had gained a lot of weight; I had some medical issues and I just felt like a cog in a wheel.  My life was nothing much beyond going through the motions.  

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Writing was therapy in a lot of ways. I found a counselor that helped me with skills and tools to cope with life in more healthy ways.  During this time writing music became prolific for me.  I have told people that I feel like I finally know why none of us remember being born.  Can you imagine how awful that would be? I think I know what birth feels like now.  The pain, the physical pressure, the feeling of being transported from a cocooned environment to one where you are completely exposed.  It’s traumatic.  That time for me was traumatic but transformative.  

I don’t look the same. I don’t deal with things the same.  I feel like I’ve learned so much and I’m more at peace right now than I’ve ever been.  Music was my outlet, therapy, healing—all the things.  That line in “Surrender” that says, “I’ve changed so much that I don’t recognize when I look in the mirror, but I know I needed the change”….. that line is powerful for me when I reflect on that time and absolute truth.  

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Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for Eleyet McConnell as a musical duo?

Chris: We would love to take some time to branch out and take the show out of our local region. We’ve been planning about how we can do that and still take care of everything we’ve got going on here at home.  We can’t wait to get back into the studio.  Angie and I have written so much material and we want to get it recorded as soon as possible.  New singles will be released soon, and we can’t wait for that.   This year we have stumbled into some cool opportunities to play in larger venues, and we’d love to see a lot more of that.  We are blessed.  We are grateful and sometimes still can’t believe all that’s happening. 

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“Don’t Tell Me Why” delivers a compelling blend of raw emotion and introspective lyrics, wrapped in the rich musical heritage that Angie (Eleyet) and Chris McConnell bring from their diverse influences. The single follows their successful Top 5 UK iTunes hit, “Surrender,” and continues to build on their reputation for creating music that resonates deeply with listeners. The new release comes on the heels of the duo’s recent Josie Music Awards nomination for Best Multi-Genre Duo.

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Artist Spotlight

Exclusive Interview with Country Chart-Topper Ashley Puckett

Ashley, it’s great to have you here. Let’s start from the beginning. Can you share a bit about your journey into music and how your upbringing in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, influenced your musical path?

Hi! Thank you for taking some time with me today!
My musical journey started when I was only about 5 years old when I sang my first song from the Dixie Chicks. Sometimes I like to say it even started before, because my mother would sing to me all the time When I was little, and there was always country music playing.  Growing up, I had a great childhood. I was a happy child, always had my parents support for anything I wanted to do.  I didn’t want for anything.  Still to this day, my parents are my biggest fan.  I remember growing up I was writing songs on my swing set outside in the summer. Music was just part of me growing up all the way to where I am now.

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You mentioned being inspired by artists like Lee Ann Womack, Carrie Underwood, and Miranda Lambert. How have these influential figures shaped your style and approach to songwriting and performing?

I love traditional county music. And gals like Miranda allow me to still do what I do because a lot of this genre is moving to pop country, and there’s listeners out there that still want to hear some good ol’ country tunes.  My influences are those who I can follow a path of success and motivation no matter the set backs, and those who have paved ways for others.  These women, among others showed me at an early age that you can be yourself and stick to your roots, and more success will come from that.

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At age sixteen, you picked up the guitar and began writing songs. What was it about songwriting that drew you in, and how did you hone your skills as a songwriter over the years?

Yes, learning to play guitar was a very big part of taking my songwriting to the next level.  For me, songwriting came early also.  It’s always been an outlet for me to express myself.  I’m a very good listener, but when it comes to talking,I usually say it better in song.  It’s a way to remember the good times and help me get through the bad. And the thing is, I’m not the only one who goes through those emotions, so it’s a way to share a way of healing for others, too.

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Your debut album, “Never Say Never,” was a lifelong dream come true. Can you tell us about the process of bringing this album to life and working with industry professionals like Bryan Cole and Doug Kasper?

It truly was nothing short of a dream come true!  I love being on stage, and writing songs, but the part where you get to work with like minded, talented individuals and see your work come to life and share a million creative moments together is by far my favorite part of making music. It’s been a while now since I’ve been in the studio, and I miss it very much!

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The first single from your album, “Medicine,” charted nationally and received widespread acclaim. What was the inspiration behind this song, and how did it feel to see it resonate with audiences?

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When I heard that song for the first time, it spoke to my heart because it was just so raw and beautiful.  There’s an innocence about that one that I felt could touch many different types of people just like it did me. I love acoustic love song, easy listening music, and this one was all of that wrapped in one.
I knew this song had to be part of my debut album because it was a perfect fit to my traditional style, my vocals, and love for beautiful melodies. I love how the audience has taken an immediate interest in me and this song and helped start my mainstream music career.

 “Bulletproof,” released on your birthday, became a #1 iTunes hit in South Africa, and a #1 Radio Hit in the US. What was your reaction to the song’s success, and did you expect it to have such a significant impact?

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Oh my gosh, it was such a surprise to me!  Honestly, when that happened, it gave me a whole new look on my accomplishments to that moment and made me realize that every little success until then had contributed to that very moment.  So I till this day appreciate the little things and the little successes a lot more because I know they will lead to much more.  I was also very surprised to learn about the culture in South Africa and how they outsource music and love country! That was very cool to learn!  I’d love to visit there sometime!

Your single, “What’s Her Name,” was also a radio hit. Can you give us a glimpse into the inspiration behind this track and what listeners should expect from it?

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This one was very fun to record!  It’s very “done me wrong, cheating song country” haha.  A lot of us have unfortunately been in that situation, and it was finally a moment to sing about it!  You put so much into something and give your all to someone who would just rather take it for granted and not show the decency to you that the relationship isn’t working out, they go out and cheat and then play at home like it’s all good and perfect. You’re blind sided. Naturally it makes you wonder who she is and what’s her name.

You mentioned that meeting Bryan and Doug reignited your passion for music and inspired you to pursue your dreams. What is it about your collaboration with them that makes it so special, and how has it influenced your creative process?

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In so many ways!  This opportunity when we all met and decided to move forward gave me my chance at country music.  So I knew my life was changing I just didn’t know how or what to expect.  Throughout the process of making the album, I leaned a lot about the industry and a lot about myself.  I think this project made me a better artist both creatively and professionally.  As I mentioned earlier, when I have the chance to be in the studio, it became my favorite part of my entire career. Just getting to create music from nothing and see it turn into a masterpiece with a bunch of talent in the room making it possible is just beyond amazing.  It also inspired me to keep writing – not that it was going away, but because I saw that the words I put on paper were not just words anymore with an A-cappella melody,  it was a radio hit. That people liked!

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With your new single, “Anchor,” on the horizon, what can fans anticipate from this latest release, and how does it fit into the larger narrative of your musical journey?

I’m very excited to share this one!  I wrote this song on a birthday vacation in Florida. I love the sea and I get most my inspiration lately it seems from the ocean.  This song is a pretty melody, vocal and simple yet story telling song.  My favorite instrument you don’t hear much anymore is steel guitar, so we brought that back here for sure!  After my debut album, I wanted to start sharing my original work, and “Anchor” is going to be a follow up to my first written debut back in 2022, “Tequila”

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That song was accepted very well and made it into the top 80 on the Music Row charts, so I’m hoping this one can set a huge stage for me and my writing and overall career showing that I didn’t just write and sing one song, I’m a songwriter, too, and I have a lot to say and share!

Finally, where can listeners find your music and stay updated on your upcoming releases and performances?

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All major platforms, wherever you listen. Amazon music, Apple Music, pandora, Spotify, or if you’re out and about on the town having a drink, play a song on any AMI Jukebox!  I’m also really big on Facebook and instagram for all things Ashley including upcoming events and performances. You can also check out my website at www.AshleyPuckett.com

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